While not as well-known as its mother company Seiko, the Orient Watch Company is one of the smaller manufacturers that is surprisingly able to give the big boys a run for their money by making their own mechanical movement.
Why is in-house movement important? Well for some watch aficionados, having one's own mechanical movement can be considered a testimony to a company's expertise in creating watches. Think of Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, BMW, or even Toyota as they build everything, from the body down to the engine, themselves.
Of course there will be an argument for every point raised in life. And in this case, the counterpoint is that companies don't need to make their own engines to be competitive. Brands such as Maserati source engines come from Ferrari, while Lotus gets their power plants from Toyota, proving that outsourcing doesn't impact performance at all.
The same argument can be said for timepieces as majority of the brands out in the market purchase their movement from other watch companies. Some may be through sister companies, such as what the Swatch group does with the brands under its umbrella. While others actually strike deals with rivals, enabling both parties to benefit from the partnership.
Since we are talking about in-house movement, Orient watch find themselves in a very small and rather distinguished company.
A quick search on the internet yields in-house movements, such as:
- Alpina's AL-710
- Cartier's 1904-CH MC and 1847 MC
- Frederique Constant's FC-705
- Glashutte's 39-52
- IWC's IW323902
- JeanRichard's JR 1050
- Jaeger leCoultre's 866
- Montblanc's MB LL100
- Panerai's P.9000
- Omega's 8900 and 8901
- Orient's 48743 and F6724
- Patek Philippe's Star 2000
- Rolex' 3130, 3186, and 3255
- Seiko's 6S15, 7S26, and 7S36
- Tudor's MT5621
- Zenith's Elite 670, 693, and 6150
While this list may seem to be a lot for some, one needs to keep in mind that there are probably over a hundred brands out in the market today. This may give rise to over a thousand models, including their variants, at any given moment. And when total production is considered, the number may run into over a million watches in a single year.
With such a large volume, it makes sense for companies to use a single movement in multiple models. By slapping on different faces, they achieve economies of scale.
While I don't mind if watch companies share their quartz movement, I take a different approach when it comes to mechanical movement.
I am fine with sharing mechanical movement if the mechanism it going to be hidden behind an opaque face. However, if it will be used in a skeleton watch, which is basically a timepiece that allows you to see almost all of the moving parts through cutouts or the total absence of an opaque face, then I prefer the movement to be exclusive.
No matter how nicely implemented, seeing exactly the same movement in two brands, or even two different models, makes it feel less than special. It becomes even worse if the other brand is in a lower price bracket as it tends to cheapen the more expensive one.
Considering skeleton watches tend to carry higher prices, I feel that an effort to limit the mechanism should be done. At most, only one skeleton watch should exist. And if the movement will be used in other models, they should be skeleton watches anymore to retain the exclusivity.
Before I get carried away, let's take a quick look at the history of the Orient Watch Company.
I understand that the company began as a retail store in Taito, located in Tokyo, Japan. The company was devoted to selling imported watches back in 1901. Taking the name of its owner, Shogoro Yoshida, the company was christened the Yoshida Watch Shop
From simply buying and selling timepieces, the owner would go on to manufacture gold cases in 1912. It began producing clocks and gauges with a new company name, the Toyo Tokei Manufacturing Company, in 1934. Two years later, it expanded into producing wrist watches after the construction of a new factory in Tokyo.
Due to poor demand after the Second World War, the plant would be shuttered in 1949 and resurrected as the Tama Keiki Company in 1950. A year after that, the company underwent a final renaming, this time to the Orient Watch Company. It was also during this time that the first Orient Star watch was offered for sale.
I understand that one of the company's contributions was the thinnest automatic watch that included a day and date back in 1964. And while other makers would come out with even thinner models in the decades to come, the Orient Watch Company enjoyed that distinction for a time. Today, the company produces quartz, solar, and even radio-controlled watches. However, their main line continues to be timepieces using mechanical movements.
Having been reestablished in 1950, some may consider it to be a young company. But now that we are 17 years into the new millennium, I'd say that it may be a bit of a stretch to say that 67 years is still young. But if we take the date the retail store was established way back in 1901, then it would make the company 116 years old today.
[Not too shabby.]
The company went through, what was probably, its final transformation in the year 2001. This time, it was purchased by the Seiko Epson Corporation, the maker of Seiko watches and Epson printers.
Under the mother company, it continues to produce the Orient brand, which is competitively priced, especially in the mechanical watch market. It also manufactures the Orient Star brand, which is in higher price range.
Orient Bambino version 4
Already in its fourth iteration, the Bambino is probably one of the more interesting models to come out of the Orient Watch Company.
It has several styling cues that make it similar to the Swiss-made Tissot Visodate and the Russian-manufactured Raketa timepieces, but with a price that doesn't break the bank.
The Face Colors
The fourth version comes in four basic face colors. Of these, I can't help but associate a couple with the top two rival schools in the Philippines. The green model would be perfect for those from La Salle while the blue one would suit those from Ateneo.
For those from San Beda, the closest one will probably be the model with the brown face, which I will get into in a while. The fourth one is a neutral gray color, making it applicable for all the other schools in the country.
I ended up getting the green model due to a number of reasons. One being that it came in a shade that tends to convey, at least for me, an understated elegance that doesn't scream out for attention.
Despite it being subtle, the color makes it difficult to miss because watch makers don't churn out very many green-faced watches due to the difficulty of matching it to one's wardrobe.
[Yup, watches typically come in white, black, silver, or gold faces.]
This version has a date indicator at the three o'clock position. The size and type of the font, as well as the black color on a white background, make it rather easy to read. It is also recessed at just the right depth to allow viewing at acute angles.
Thankfully, it doesn't come with one of those on-glass magnifiers. While that type of implementation may work for Rolex, it would most likely look gaudy on something like this.
When I purchased this timepiece from MyWatch at the Gateway Mall, I was attended to by a knowledgeable sales man. He knew just about everything about this model except for one major thing - he mistakenly told me that the glass was made of plastic, supposedly like the original version all those years ago.
This was actually a deal breaker for me because I didn't want to spend PhP 6,080 on a watch with plastic cover. Sure, it won't crack when struck, but clear plastic is notorious for changing color over the years. And the last thing I wanted was a situation where I couldn't read the time anymore because the plastic had changed to a sickly brown or an opaque gray color.
In spite of my reservations, I still took the plunge and got the watch because it was just too handsome to pass up. And since the store only had one piece left, I knew I would regret not seeing it on my wrist before the day was over.
The good news is that, after conducting some research after getting home, I was relieved to learn that the Orient Bambino version 4 is fitted with mineral glass. The down side to that is I now needed to be just as careful with it as my other domed glass watch - the Timex Waterbury.
The Color - Faces and Cases
Gone are the days when watch companies would just come out with a single version of a model. Probably due to intense competition and the need to achieve economies of scale, there are multiple variations of models today.
Options can be in the form of different colored faces, cases, straps, and bracelets. I have even come across models that sported tinted lenses in blues and browns in addition to the typical clear glass.
For this version of the Bambino, it wasn't enough to have different colored faces, the cases and straps varied as well. The combinations available are green-gold, blue-silver, brown-rose gold, and gray-silver.
For the green, blue, and brown-faced watches, the hands and numerals match the color of their cases. The gray is a departure because even if it has a silver case, the hands and numerals are set in rose-gold.
The Color - Faces, Cases, and Straps
Interestingly, the color combinations don't stop there as even the straps are varied. In the case of the green-faced model, it comes with brown straps. The blue faces paired with black straps and the brown come with brown straps. The gray-faced watch is another departure from the group because its brown strap is suede instead of the faux alligator skin of the other three.
One subtle difference can be observed with the straps. From afar, they will look like a solid band of brown or black. But take a closer look and one will notice that the edges of the straps, as well as their underside, will match the color of the faces they are paired with.
In the case of my green watch, the brown strap has a tinge of green along the edges. It's another small touch that helps make each of the three variations unique not only from each other, but with other watches as well. This pattern continues with the blue face, as it gets blue edges; the same goes with the gray-faced watch as it also has gray edges.
A departure from this pattern can observed with the brown-faced version. Instead of pairing the dark brown strap with a lighter shade of the same color, it is accentuated with a dark red edge and underside. And since San Beda's official color is red, this may be a candidate to carry the school's signature color.
One of the more awkward implementations of the old older versions of the Bambino was that they came with lugs that accepted the difficult-to-find 21mm watch strap. The good news about the fourth version is that it accepts standard 22mm ones. This means that owners will continue to enjoy wearing their watch long after the original strap has worn out.
[Just like the Timex Waterbury and the Skagen watch I mentioned in previous articles, it is next to impossible to get the original strap for this watch in this country.]
Finally, the buckle colors will match the case of the watch. Having said that, I don't see and problems with the gold and silver cases. It's the rose gold case that I am a bit concerned about because I haven't seen any replacement straps that come with rose gold buckles.
[It is possible to transfer the buckle to a replacement strap but if it has faded, the only recourse may be to get a gold buckle.]
The face of the Orient Bambino version 4 has a retro-vibe to it. With its the sharp sabers for hands and spike-like bars for numbers, it looks like it will fit perfectly in one those old black and white posters of James Dean or Cary Grant.
A few people have criticized the hands as being too short for the width of the case, but to my untrained eye, they look fine since it is fairly easy to read the time.
One of the interesting things about the hands is that while the hour and minute hands are straight, the second hand is curved at the tip.
When I gazed at the face for the first time, I felt that there was something funny about the second hand. I initially thought that it was an optical illusion brought about by the curvature of the glass. But after watching it slowly sweep around the face from different angles, I confirmed that the red tip is indeed bent downwards in such a manner that it follows the curve of the glass.
Compared to all the bells and whistles of the Timex Waterbury, the Orient Bambino version 4 is quite bare as the hands do not contain any glow-in-the-dark material, nor does it contain a tiny bulb or illuminescent technology. This is kind of a good thing as glowing hands and numerals may be out of place here.
If there is one minor complaint I have with the Orient Bambino version 4, it's that the caseback isn't made of glass to allow me to view its mechanical components. Much like traditional watches, it is a solid piece of stainless steel
While I acknowledge that majority of contemporary mechanical watches only show the flywheel used to automatically wind the watch, having a tiny glass window at the back would still have been a nice touch.
[Seiko sells a mechanical watch with a clear window for around PhP 5,000 but it's not as unique that this one is.]
However, there are a couple upsides to having a solid caseback. The first is that there will be one less seal to be concerned about when it comes to water resistance. The second is that one doesn't have to worry about another piece of glass to scratch or crack. This means that owners don't have to be overly careful when setting down the watch on hard surfaces.
[To avoid any damage to casebacks, I usually set my watches down on a soft cloth at home or on paper in the office.]
The Energy Reserve
The ability of a watch to keep going even if it isn't wound, either by the crown or by movement, is known as its energy reserve.
The convenient thing about having a typical quartz watch is that one doesn't need to wind it at all. Depending on the battery used, it can be expected to continue providing accurate time for as much as two years after purchase.
In the case of manual mechanical watches, regular winding keep them running. For automatic watches, the mere act of moving one's wrist is enough to keep the mainspring in its tightest state.
However, if you set an automatic watch down or keep it in is box, there is no more movement to keep the mainspring wound. And once the spring fully unwinds the watch will stop and you will need to set the time the next time you use it.
Majority of the automatic watches out in the market today, including the Orient Bambino version 4, have an energy reserve of about 40 hours. Being the case, if you want to avoid setting the time whenever you strap it on to your wrist, it would be ideal to rotate it with another watch every other day.
The Mechanical Movement
As I mentioned earlier, this model makes use of in-house movement. While the definition of in-house movement seems to have changed over the years of company consolidations, my understanding about the term is that the movement is designed and built by the Orient Watch Company.
One of the changes implemented for version three and carried over to this one is that it is hackable, which in the watch world means that the movement can be stopped when the crown is pulled out.
According to the salesman who sold me this watch, hackable watches are found predominantly in Swiss-made watches. Other timepieces, including some of the older and more expensive Japanese-made watches I have come across, are not hackable.
So why is this important? Well, having the ability to literally stop time means that people can set their watches right down to the second. This helps when a group decides to synchronize their watches for activities.
In practice, having a hackable watch may be of little use to the average person since most offline activities are not timed to the last second. However, I understand that aficionados consider this feature more desirable because it is a tad bit more complicated to manufacture.
[I admit to being quite amused seeing the second hand stop whenever I set the time of this watch.]
I have heard a few people comment that the automatic winding mechanism is a little louder in this watch when compared to others. And when I tested it against Tissot Chemin Des Tourelles Powermatic 80, I concur that the whirr the flywheel of the Orient Bambino version 4 makes is slightly louder noise.
You're probably asking much louder it is. Well, let me put it this way... the sound of my thick long-sleeved shirt makes more noise when I straighten it. The sound of the magnets locking on my leather portfolio makes is louder than the mechanism. Even scratching a particularly itchy and dry patch of skin in a bone-chillingly cold restaurant makes more noise than this watch. All in all, it really isn't that much at all.
[The audible tick-tock of my Timex Waterbury is louder than the mechanism's whirr of this watch.]
You may have surmised that the Orient Bambino version 4 is a combination of subtle touches that help differentiate it from other watches. Well, the last thing I can't help but point out is the logo at the twelve o'clock position.
Many of today's watches, including those four to five times more expensive than this model, will just have their logo or name spray painted on the face of the watch.
Orient took a different approach by physically attaching their logo to the face. Not only is it intricate, it comes in the same color are the case.
[I'd say it puts many of the more expensive Swiss watches to shame.]
The Orient Bambino version 4 is another unique addition to my tiny collection of watches. While it can be difficult to pair with because of its green face, I reckon this same color carries an understated level of elegance.
There are quite a few subtle touches that give this watch great value. The first are the four colors they come in. The second is the combination of the face colors with their cases. The third is the domed mineral glass. The fourth is the two-toned leather straps. The fifth is that it includes a date indicator. The sixth is the tiny intricate logo that matches the case color. Finally, it comes with in-house mechanical movement that is hackable.
Sure, it doesn't have a glass windows for a caseback, but at PhP 6,080 spread out in a six-month instalment period, it provides quite a good value for a mechanical watch, especially since many quartz watches retail between PhP 6,000 and PhP 10,000 in the Philippines.